War has played a key role in the history of the United States from the nation’s founding right down to the present. Wars made the U. S. independent, kept it together, increased its size, and established it as a global superpower. Understanding America’s wars is essential for understanding American history. In the Key Battles of American History, host James Early discusses American history through the lens of the most important battles of America’s wars. James is an Adjunct Professor of History at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, TX. He has published one book and two scholarly articles. He is also the cohost (with Scott Rank) of the Presidential Fight Club, Key Battles of the Civil War, Key Battles of the Revolutionary War, and Key Battles of World War I podcasts.
Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the End of the War
Between December 1942 and July 1945, a team of scientists, working in secret facilities in various parts of the U. S., researched, built, and tested the world’s first atomic bomb. Japan’s failure to surrender, together with the possibility of hundreds of thousands of casualties, motivated President Truman to drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Despite the bomb’s destruction of the city, including the immediate deaths of up to 80,000 people, Japan’s leaders still refused to surrender. Three days later, an American bomber dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki, leveling that city and killing nearly as many people as had perished at Hiroshima. Soon after, the Emperor led Japan to surrender. In this episode, James and Scott discuss the Manhattan Project, the dropping of the two atomic bombs, the Japanese surrender, and the end of the Second World War.
Plug for This American President
This is an excerpt from an episode of This American President, a great history podcast that is the newest member of the Parthenon Podcast Network. You can find it at www.spreaker.com/show/this-american-president or wherever you listen to podcasts.
George Washington: The First American Action Hero
He might look like an old man on the one-dollar bill, but George Washington was once a bona fide action hero. This episode explores our first president’s legendary exploits during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.
The Beginning of the End
By the summer of 1945, it was clear that Japan was defeated. Historian Craig Symonds writes that Japan was “stripped of her conquests, bombed incessantly from the air by American B-29s, her imports cut to a trickle by American submarines, her navy destroyed, and her industries idle for lack of raw materials and oil. Her allies were gone, too…Japan was alone, starving, all but defenseless, a passive target, absorbing punishment and unable to strike back.” In addition, Allied leaders issued the Potsdam Declaration, which warned Japan of “prompt and utter destruction” if they did not surrender. Despite all this, Japan’s leaders vowed to fight to the death. In this episode, James and Scott discuss Allied efforts to persuade Japan to surrender, along with Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands.
Prisoners of War
During the Pacific War, the Japanese took over 130,000 Allied prisoners of war and held them in camps spread all over the Japanese Empire. Nearly all Allied prisoners were deprived of food and medical care, were regularly beaten, and were worked past the point of exhaustion. Nearly 40,000 died, representing about 27% (compared to only 4% in German camps). In this episode, James and Scott tell the tragic story of Allied prisoners of war in Japanese internment camps. They also briefly discuss the much happier story of Navajo Code Talkers, who helped win the war for the United States.
Once again, James and Scott are taking a break from the narrative of key battles to discuss two more important topics. In this episode, we will tell the story of kamikazes, including the origin of the tactic, its expansion into a full-fledged program, and its increasingly devastating effect, most notably at the Battle of Okinawa.
Okinawa (KB 9), Part Two
As was the case with previous island battles, the American conquest of Okinawa was slow and bloody. In addition to their network of caves and tunnels, the Japanese possessed a strong fortress called Shuri Castle. But if the Americans could overcome the seemingly impregnable Japanese defenses, they could establish a powerful naval and air base from which to stage the seemingly inevitable invasion of the Japanese home islands. Would they succeed? Tune in and find out!